Wondereiland krijgt na Chapala ook orkaan Megh nog over zich heen

Het toch al zo geplaagde Jemen is het eerste land dat binnen een week twee orkanen moet verwerken terwijl het al zeven maanden in oorlog is met zichzelf, daarbij aangemoedigd en gesteund door buurlanden en grootmachten. En dan nu ook nog orkaanstormen over wondereiland Socotra, die koraalriffen op het strand werpen en duizend jaar oude drakenbloedbomen ontwortelen. UPDATED

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Geography of Yemen

Yemen is a relatively populous, mountainous country in the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. It is the southernmost country of the Middle East, bordering Saudi Arabia in the north and Oman in the east. In the south, the over 1000 kilometres long coastline stretches along the Gulf of Aden, extending to the Arabian Sea or Indian Ocean, while to the west the narrow – yet unpredictable – Red Sea separates the country from Africa. In fact, biogeographically the western part of Yemen belongs to the Paleotropics, just as Ethiopia and Eritrea, where the same vegetation and climate are found.

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Demography of Yemen

Yemen’s population is the largest of the Arabian Peninsula, and has been a prime source of Arab diaspora since ancient times. Peoples from North Africa to Indonesia trace their ancestry back to Yemen. Tribal influences remain very strong in Yemen, resulting in a sometimes puzzling political system. The people of the Akhdam make up a neglected Yemeni underclass, and have no rights.

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Religions and ethnic groups in Yemen

The population of Yemen is to a high degree homogeneous. All Yemenis are ethnic Arabs with a strong tribal ancestry. The only distinction is whether a tribe has an affiliation with the Sunni (Shafi) Islam or the Shia (Zaidi) Islam. There is also a small minority of Shia Ismailis. There used to be a large number of Jews, but at present the Jewish community number only one or two thousand.

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Politics and government

Yemen’s political system is complicated, and sometimes paradoxical. Political alliances depend on many factors, as they do in all states. In Yemen, this is complicated by the strong position of the tribe (al qabila), which is always looking out for tribal (and often conservative) interests. The tribe can be regarded as an extension of the family, reaching far beyond the extended or expanded family. Backed by a strong tribal base, longtime president Saleh has proved a master in balancing the country’s powers. In doing so, Saleh has held the country together in relative peace, but has also created obscurity, widespread corruption and nepotism. This has proved a less favourable environment for progress, investment and innovation.

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Society of Yemen

Though rapidly urbanizing, Yemen is still a very rural country. Nearly three quarters of the population leads a traditional, rural life in sometimes very remote mountain villages. Poverty is widespread, social injustice is deep. Begging is common in the streets of the big cities. Women are denied an equal position in society. Healthcare is improving fast.

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Culture of Yemen

Yemen is a culturally rich country. The formidable architecture with its unique houses has been seamlessly integrated into the spectacular landscape. Poetry and literature are not classified or written down, but passed on orally to new generations, enriching the language with many sayings and proverbs. Popular culture has a rough, masculine edge to it, but the Yemeni language and speech are rather eloquent and poetical.

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Economy of Yemen

The era of Yemeni domination of trade routes and much demanded export products – such as frankincense, myrrh and coffee – is long gone. Yemeni economy is very poor. Virtually no export products are produced. The economy rests largely on oil export, remittances and foreign aid, which feed the consumption, the informal sector and the booming qat production.

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Geit versus Drakenbloedboom

Socotra, eiland in de Indische oceaan, heeft een flora die zijn weerga nergens kent. In een poging die unieke flora te behoeden voor uitsterven riep Unesco Socotra afgelopen jaar uit tot werelderfgoed. Centraal in dat erfgoed staat ook een controversiele geit.

Fatima, hoedster van de botanische tuin van Socotra foto Nico te Laak

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In de War

In het dorp waar ik woon is ophef over de bouw van een moskee. Om de lieve vrede te bewaren is afgezien van een minaret, en al helemaal van een luidsprekertje erop. Persoonlijk vind ik dat jammer, ik houd wel van het zangerige lied dat ons in Hoog Arabisch op de vergankelijkheid der dingen wijst. Maar ik geloof dat ik daarin een eenling ben.

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